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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: "Nous ne renoncerons jamais de parler de paix"

by Pierre Barbancey

"We Will Never Give Up Talking About Peace"

Translated Thursday 6 August 2015, by Henry Crapo

The co-president of the Democratic Party of the People (HDP), partisan for the rights of the Kurdish people, emerging from a large progressive coalition, Selahattin Demirtas denounces the policies of the Turkish president Erdogan, in the context of anticipated elections, in which Erdogan hopes to gain full power and to impose his repression of the PKK.[[ This article is not freely available on the web site of humanite.fr]. We combine it with a piece by the same reporter, Over Diyarbakir, the War Planes Continuously Circle

Huma: In the month of June there were legislative elections in which the HDP (Democratic Party of the People) received more than 13% of the votes cast, and elected 80 deputies. Today, the Turkish government, under cover of a battle against "terrorists", is bombarding the camps of the PKK (Workers’ Party of Kurdistan) and is killing civilians, you yourself are being charged, along with the president of your party, and your militants are being arrested. How did this begin?

Selahattin Demirtas In reality, the violence started during the electoral campaign. Our party was victim of 170 attacks of the most diverse sorts, culminating in a double bombing of a meeting in Diyarbakir on June 5th. Our organization was also the target of attacks in Mersin and in Dogubayazit. The campaign of violence carried out by the AKP (Party of Justice and Development, of Recep Tayyip Erdogan) is nothing new. But this has not worked. As you say, the HDP won 13% of the votes, which means that the AKP was weakened.

What has happened shows that the AKP has never accepted the result of the election, and does not respect the choice of the Turkish people. Now they want to recuperate the votes they lost in the elections, by starting a war. Despite the fact that the government in place is only provisional, since no coalition has yet been formed, due to a lack of majority in Parliament, the AKP continues to act as if it can govern the country all alone. They try to send this message to the society: if you won’t let us govern the country all alone, we will be unable to guarantee the security of the country. They want to organize early elections with this in mind.

Huma: How does the HDP react to this strategy of Erdogan’s circle, and how can it escape from what seems to be a trap?

Selahattin Demirtas Effectively, this operation is aimed at trapping us. For our part, all our declarations are peaceful. We openly say that we will never give up speaking for peace. We continue on this path. We call clearly upon all parties to bring an end to this war. We speak directly to the people to explain the motivations of the government in its project for war. A great majority of the society is well aware that this war, carried out by Erdogan, is motivated by his will to regain power. The only way to stop this war is to bring to light his real motivation.

This is why we organize large meetings for peace. We want also for the mothers of members of the PKK who were killed, and of the policemen who lost their lives, to raise their voices to call for an end to this war. In a similar vein we address ourselves to intellectuals and non-governmental organizations. We try to use the channels of media, national and international, to say "No to War". We organize meetings of different sectors of the society, with workers, women, employers, intellectuals, the youth ... in the same direction.

The purpose is to show to the society, to the country, that there exist voices, a voice for peace. And, to be sure, we launch an appeal to the PKK in the same sense. So that they will take their finger off the trigger and continue on the road to peace.

Huma:The Turkish leaders in power suggest, and would like us to believe, that the HDP is just a branch of the PKK, which gives it its orders. Do there exist links between the HDP and the PKK?

Selahattin Demirtas We are absolutely not a political branch of the PKK. Our party was formed following a regrouping of more than twenty organizations. Among the founders of the HDP, there are members of the Socialist Party, of movements for women’s rights, for ecology ... And among those one finds also the founder of the Kurdish party DBP. To try to suggest that the HDP is a continuation of the PKK is only a manipulation designed to deceive the population.

Huma: Along what path should one go, in your opinion?

Selahattin Demirtas Historically, in the world, the process for peace has known ruptures and resumptions. As far as we are concerned, if we make another start, and that is what we wish, it must be at another level. Discussions must take place in the presence of a third party of observers, and public opinion must be informed concerning the state and content of the discussions. There must also be a total change in the conditions of emprisonment of Abdullah Öcalan (Leader of the PKK emprisoned since February 1999, condemned to death in June ’99, the sentence being commuted to life emprisonment in 2002.), so that he regain contact with the population. It is not difficult to make such decisions. The preliminary condition is obviously a cease-fire decreed both by the government and by the PKK. What’s more, without precise laws, how can one hope that the Kurdish combattants return, or render their arms?

Huma:How do you analyze the behavior of Turkey toward the "Islamic State", and more generally in the regional situation that we know?

Selahattin Demirtas It was only as a result ot national and intenational pressure that Turkey took a position in opposition to the "Islamic State". But it was clearly not the will of the government. The bad policies of the AKP and the support of the government strengthened the "Islamic State", which was never considered to be a danger. To obtain international support, Turkey announced raids against the "Islamic State", but in reality they used the occasion to attack the PKK. The ultimate aim was to give breathing room to the "Islamic State", which found itself in a difficult position in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan).

Huma: NATO supported Erdogan in those raids, giving him full rein. Do’t you find that shocking?

Selahattin Demirtas That was partial support. Turkey is a country important for NATO, of which it is a member. We know that NATO does not want to lose Turkey, so it closes its eyes to horrors committed and to its politics. Who can say that NATO is itself an organization aiming to protect human rights and democracy? It is a force to protect Capitalism and imperialist forces. That is why NATO makes such a declaration. Even when the member states know full well that weakening the PKK means strengthening the "Islamic State".

Huma: Do you expect something from France? Can it play some particular role at crucial moments?

Selahattin Demirtas France, and its government, is one of the countries that recognized and denounced the barbary of the "Islamic State". France understood the danger posed by the "Islamic State". For this reason, it has close relations with the PYD (Party of Democratic Union, an organization of Kurds in Syria). The war started in Turkey will now reinforce the "Islamic State" and will be a set-back to democracy. We are persuaded of one thing: If the French people demonstrate to stop this war, and call for a resumption of negociations, then, at that moment, we will be able to discuss once more the process of peace. That will be a genuine contribution to peace.

Over Diyarbakir, the War Planes Continuously Circle

Diyarbakir, Syrian Kurdistan, by special envoy, Pierre Barbancey

Kurdistan: The Turkish army has but one goal, to destroy the bases of the PKK, even in Iraq, thus providing a period of recovery for the bands of Daech.

Will the region pay the costs of the dangerous game played by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president? Under the pretext of an intervention against the organization called the "Islamic State" (Daech), which underwent three raids, of which the damages incurred remain unknown, and with the free pass provided by NATO, the army and police forces became unbridled. From the runways of the airport in Diyarbakir, the large Kurdish city in the east of Turkey, fighter airplanes take off regularly to bomb PKK bases in Kandil and in the north of Iraq, while in the streets all demonstrations are brutally broken up by the forces of "order", those of Erdogan. Water cannons, tear gas, billy clubs, are the response of the state to a population demanding peace and a resumption of discussions. At night, helicopters watch, without pause, for the slightest movement. In the face of Turkish repression, the guerilla of the PKK react.

Yesterday, two members of the Turkish security fores were killed by an explosion of a hand-made mine in the province of Sìrnak, in the south of the country. The oil pipeline Shah Deniz, or Bakou-Tbilissi-Ceyhan, was also the target of sabotage in the province of Posof, near the border with Georgia, in the north-east.

The smoke-screen put up by Erdogan tends, however, to clear. There is, to begin with, this agreement with the United Sates for the use of the Turkish aair base at Incirlik, some 100 km from the Syrian border. This is supposed to permit coalition airplanes to intervene more rapidly, and more often, against Daech. However, this past week, there has been no activity recorded in this framework. According to our information, Turkey has refused that its platform be used in support of Kurdish fighters in Syria, the YPG, under the pretext that they have links to the PKK. And what is worse, some days ago, the Turkish strikes were directed against the city of Kobané, the place where the "Islamic State" was first defeated by Kurdish resistants.

On the home front, after what was taken to be a defeat for the AKP, because he was after an absolute majority his party, to be thus able to modify the constitution and seize full power, Erdogan is organizing early elections. Which shows that, behind the attacks against the PKK, the president hopes to destroy the Democratic Party of the People (HDP), guilty of having broken the barrier of 10% in the recent legislative elections and of forming a parliamentary group of 80 deputies. While the AKP has not yet formed a coalition to govern the country, Erdogan forsees the failure of discussions with the social democrats and Kemalists of the CHP, and even with the ultra-nationalists of the MHP, so aims to proceed toward early elections. He hopes, in a climate of violence, to regain his absolute majority. Even Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, president of the CHP, is worried. "If he’s heading for early elections, all the while with his bloody politics, there is danger", he declared. As for Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the MHO, he uses the language of the far right in France, denouncing "persons who voted HDP while drinking alcohol in their villas", which he calls "immoral".

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